The pandemic has taught employers that nothing is impossible. When the seemingly impossible happened and workers were sent home to ride out the storm of Covid-19, productivity was not lost, and in many cases grew more prolific. And likewise, employees learned that the “traditional” daily grind of a five-day workweek is not imperative, and that fewer days of work can often lead to a more positive work/life balance. Countries around the globe have long been toggling the pendulum of work hours per week, hoping to find the magic fulcrum where both job satisfaction and productivity lie. Although Belgium is the latest country to mandate a four-day workweek, there are several countries around the globe that are already succeeding in this endeavor.
History of the Workweek
As for the United States, if you ever wondered about the proliferation of the forty-hour, five-day workweek, and why we have that model to start with, you have Henry Ford to thank. Coming out of the Industrial Revolution, workers were working 12–14-hour days and often 6–7 days a week. But in 1926, Ford embraced the five-day, 40-hour workweek. This gave employees more of a balance and created the coveted weekend. Congress took it a step further in 1938 by passing the Fair Labor Standards Act, limiting the workweek to 44 hours. And two years later, the work week became the standard 40-hour week.
Interestingly, according to the Fast Company, English economist John Maynard Keynes predicted in 1929 that technology would bring the workweek down to just 15 hours within 100 years. Although his idea did not come to fruition, the pandemic has re-opened the conversation about how much work is necessary per week, and where exactly the balance should lie between personal time and professional time.
Belgium’s Business Bio
Belgium has recently been on a trajectory to improve their citizen’s lives and has taken a long hard look at the typical work week in order to do so. They had previously announced that all federal civil…